What’s Missing: A Passion for Matching

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With all these examples of talent management malpractice, it’s almost surprising

that 20 percent of the working population does get to use their

strengths every day. It is also a reminder of how rare and special it is to

have a manager who cares about the matching of talent to the job and does

it well.

The key missing ingredient in so many companies is management’s

lack of passion for getting the right people in the right jobs. It has been said

that the best managers are the best match-makers. This is truer today than

it has ever been because of the preeminence of talent in an economy now

dominated by service industries, encompassing everything from health care

to retail, from business services to education. Distinguished business executives

and management scholars have never been more in agreement about

the importance of maintaining a relentless focus on talent:

Over time, choosing the right people is what creates the elusive sustainable

competitive advantage.

—Larry Bossidy, chairman and former CEO

of Honeywell Corporation2

The best thing we can do for our competitors is hire poorly. If I hire a

bunch of bozos, it will hurt us because it takes time to get rid of them

. . . then they start hiring people of lower quality. . . . We are always

looking to hire people who are better than we are.

—Miscrosoft recruiting director3

Leaders of companies that go from good to great . . . start by getting

the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the

right people in the right seats.

—Jim Collins, Good to Great4

In acknowledgment of the new realization that talent is king, many

large companies have even created senior executive positions with titles

such as ‘‘chief talent officer,’’ or ‘‘vice president, talent acquisition.’’

If matching people to the right jobs is generally recognized to be the

key to business success, why do so many businesses lack the passion and

commitment to get managers at every level to take it seriously and excel at

it? There are many obstacles to consider, but the greatest of them all is a

basic lack of understanding about the nature of human talent.